Agustin Dovalina

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Agustin I. Dovalina, III (born 1955), is a former chief of police in Laredo, a border city with Mexico and the seat of Webb County in south Texas, who served from 1996 until October 22, 2007, amid the revelation of corrupt practices in his department. Four days after his sudden retirement, Dovalina pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to extortion and the acceptance of $13,000 in bribes from the owner of a gambling establishment.[1]

Dovalina conspired with retired Sergeant Alfonso Santos and former Lieutenant Eloy Rodriguez to extort more than $90,000 from the operators of illegal eight-liner gambling businesses in exchange for protection from police raids.[1] Octavio Salinas, II, the attorney for Dovalina, blamed the crime on a "financial crisis" which prompted the former chief "into a moment where he lacked judgment." Dovalina actually had a family income approaching $200,000 annually, very large by most standards in Laredo. Meanwhile, Dovalina had a heart attack and was involved in four fender-bender accidents in his police vehicle, two of which netted tickets. Then, his house burned, and a daughter suffered smoke inhalation. In July 2006, Dovalina underwent an emergency balloon angioplasty to clear a clogged artery and restore blood flow. According to court documents, Dovalina accepted his first bribe in June 2006, a month prior to his surgery; he took the second $5,000 bribe in September 2006. Dovalina, however, has disputed the amount of the bribes that he admitted to having received. So has Santos, who contends that he received $27,800 for himself and $10,000 for Dovalina, not the $95,000 claimed by the government. Santos and Rodriguez also competed for illegal funds and influence with Dovalina. Rodriguez also claims that he gave Dovalina another $10,000, but Dovalina disputed his former associates. The acceptance of the bribes was recorded on videotape.[2]

Background

Dovalina is descended from a pioneer family which established Laredo in 1755. He is a cousin of former Laredo City Manager Lazaro "Larry" Dovalina (born 1947) and former Laredo Community College president Ramon Humberto Dovalina, Sr. (born 1943). The son of the former Juanita Castaneda and Agustin Dovalina, Jr. (1933-2015), he graduated in 1973 from Martin High School in Laredo, at which he was a talented band member. He then attended the University of Texas at Austin from 1973 to 1976, having studied music education. Dovalina was the baritone section leader for the UT marching band and was a member of the university's jazz and wind ensembles as well as the Austin Symphony. He was a member of two Roman Catholic Church choirs.[3]

Dovalina left UT to become a municipal bridge toll collector on the Rio Grande border. On August 7, 1978, he became a city patrolman. According to records in his personnel file released through the Laredo Morning Times, Dovalina scored the highest among his peers on a lieutenant eligibility test in 1989 and was hence promoted to that rank. While at the police department, he attended the former Laredo Junior College, the predecessor institution to Laredo Community College, from 1990 to 1992, at which he earned an associate's degree in law enforcement. He continued his police education in 1994 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and subsequently graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy. He earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in criminal justice from Texas A&M International University in Laredo. He also taught occasionally on an adjunct basis at Laredo Community College.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag said that Peña never mentioned to her any problems that he had encountered with Dovalina.

Dovalina modernized the department. In 1999, officers received radios in their patrol cars. In 2006, Dovalina unveiled a digital 800-megahertz radio system that shields access to criminals and the public. Dovalina proved adept and procuring funding at the state and national levels for departmental operations, having obtained additional patrol cars to replace older vehicles which were frequently in the garage for repair. He purchased mobile data terminals and dash cameras for police vehicles. In 2005, he started Laredo's own bomb squad. Previously, the city shut down an area and waited for a squad from San Antonio to come to defuse the situation. Dovalina was chief when Laredo's Special Weapons And Tactics division received a major upgrade, with the purchase of a mobile command center. The department was fully computerized.[3]

Downfall

Dovalina had critics within the police department. A suit was filed against him in November 2006 by thirteen officers who alleged that the police leadership retaliated against them when the officers sent a letter to Mayor Salinas and city council members expressing concern about "the familial ties between the City Manager and Chief of Police."[3]

Flores' tenure as mayor (1998-2006) coincided with eight of Dovalina's eleven years as chief. She told the Laredo Morning Times that Dovalina had "made some bad decisions that he has admitted to, but I would hope that this community understands that his heart was protecting them and working for them."[4] Flores noted that Dovalina did not claim personal credit for innovations to the department. She added that "the only thing that he didn't accomplish was getting the helicopter that we so desperately need." According to Flores, Dovalina "is a good man. I hope that's what he will be remembered for."[3]

When Dovalina pleaded guilty to extortion, he emerged from court on what he termed "one of the darkest, saddest days" of his life. He apologized to his family, the police department, and community. Dovalina declined to be interviewed but asked that the media respect his family privacy.[3] Numerous letters to the editor of the Laredo Morning Times at the time of his retirement and guilty plea were hostile to Dovalina.

Dovalina's immediate retirement preserved his pension and one-time payment for accrued leave time. With nearly thirty years of service, Dovalina will gross $86,895 in leave time. Sergeant Santos received $41,900 in leave time; Lieutenant Rodriguez, $27,350. Dovalina received $70.85 per hour for 720 hours of sick leave and 480 hours of annual leave. Ironically, the City of Laredo had to dip into its fund balance to pay the trio these amounts. Dovalina and Santos receive monthly retirement checks, but Rodriguez did not meet eligibility for a city pension.[5]

Dovalina was sentenced to prison by District Judge George P. Kazen of Laredo. He was released after three years confinement by the Bureau of Prisons on November 16, 2010.[6]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Chief guilty of taking bribes," Laredo Morning Times, October 26, 2007, p. 1.
  2. Julian Aguilar, "Just the facts: Documents show Dovalina's alleged hardship did not exist," Laredo Morning Times, November 25, 2007, pp. 1, 11A
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Ashley Richards (November 11, 2007). "The Rise and Fall of a Police Chief". Laredo Morning Times.
  4. Ashley Richards, "The Rise and Fall of a Police Chief," Laredo Morning Times, November 11, 2007, pp. 1, 14A.
  5. Ashley Richards, "Chief cashes in: City has to dip into reserves to pay him $86,000+," Laredo Morning Times, November 15, 2007, pp. 1, 15A.
  6. Find an Inmate: Agustin Dovalina. Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on May 12, 2017.